Thursday, February 23, 2017

The History of Newgate Prison by Caroline Jowett

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The History of Newgate Prison
by Caroline Jowett

ISBN-13: 9781473876408
Paperback: 256 pages
Publisher: Pen & Sword
Released: Feb. 28, 2017

Source: Review copy from the publisher.

Book Description, Modified from NetGalley:
As the place where prisoners, male and female, awaited trial, execution or transportation, Newgate was Britains most feared gaol for over 700 years. It probably best known today from the novels of Charles Dickens including Barnaby Rudge and Great Expectations.

But there is much is more to Newgate than nineteenth-century notoriety. In the seventeenth century it saw the exploits of legendary escaper and thief Jack Sheppard. Author Daniel Defoe who was imprisoned there for seditious libel, playwright Ben Jonson for murder, the Captain Kidd for piracy were among its most famous inmates.

This book takes you from the gaols twelfth-century beginnings to its final closure in 1904 and looks at daily life, developments in the treatment of prisoners from the use of torture to penal reform as well as major events in its history.

My Review:
The History of Newgate Prison covers the history of Newgate from its initial building to its closure. The author broke the history down into chunks of time: 1188-1499, 1500-1699, 1700-1769, 1770-1779, and 1800-1902.

She described how Newgate was run (administrative structure, fees for provisions and such, etc.), what life was like for the inmates, what crimes would result in a stay at Newgate, the punishments for those crimes, and how all of these things changed over the years. She described the attempted and accepted reforms to the system (including some changes to the legal system) as well as some famous or typical cases from each period.

I found the book to be a very interesting and informative without getting dry or academic in tone. Overall, I'd recommend this book to those interested in learning more about the goal/prison system in England during this time period.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Reconstructing Ancient Linen Body Armor by Gregory S. Aldrete

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Reconstructing Ancient Linen Body Armor
by Gregory S. Aldrete

ISBN-13: 9781421408194
Hardcover: 304 pages
Publisher: Johns Hopkins University Press
Released: March 1, 2013

Source: Review copy from the publisher through Amazon Vine.

Book Description, Modified from Goodreads:
Alexander the Great led one of the most successful armies in history and conquered nearly the entirety of the known world while wearing armor made of cloth.

An extensive multiyear project in experimental archaeology, this pioneering study presents a thorough investigation of the linothorax, linen armor worn by the Greeks, Macedonians, and other ancient Mediterranean warriors. Because the linothorax was made of cloth, no examples of it have survived. As a result, even though there are dozens of references to the linothorax in ancient literature and nearly a thousand images of it in ancient art, this linen armor remains relatively ignored and misunderstood by scholars.

Combining traditional textual and archaeological analysis with hands-on reconstruction and experimentation, the authors unravel the mysteries surrounding the linothorax. They have collected and examined all of the literary, visual, historical, and archaeological evidence for the armor and detail their efforts to replicate the armor using materials and techniques that are as close as possible to those employed in antiquity. By reconstructing actual examples using authentic materials, the authors were able to scientifically assess the true qualities of linen armor for the first time in 1,500 years. The tests reveal that the linothorax provided surprisingly effective protection for ancient warriors, that it had several advantages over bronze armor, and that it even shared qualities with modern-day Kevlar.

My Review:
Reconstructing Ancient Linen Body Armor is a detailed study the authors did on linen corselets using ancient written and visual sources, and what they learned from their reconstructive archaeology efforts. The writing style was formal, yet the information was not difficult to understand or process. The authors realized that their audience was not solely academics, so they wrote in a manner accessible to everyone. They stated that they realized not all of the chapters in the book would equally interest all of their readers since this book would likely have a varied audience: academics, history buffs, reenactors, and others. I was initially interested in the reconstructive archaeology chapters, so I was surprised by how interesting I found the initial chapters.

There were a number of black and white photos and 6 color photos, mainly of ancient art showing this type of armor and of their experiments. The photos did an excellent job of showing what the text was describing. The main text was 168 pages long and used a somewhat denser, smaller-font text than "popular history" books. The next 38 pages were text description of the hundreds of images of linen body armor in ancient art that were used as the basis for this study so others who wish to can find them. The next 44 pages contained the "footnote" information. The biography and index each took 12 pages.

Chapter 1 discussed the mentions of linen armor in ancient texts and the images of Type IV/linen body armor in ancient art. It also described how flax was grown and processed in the ancient world. Chapter 2 discussed common elements seen in the visual sources and the different variations seen--things like how the shoulder straps were secured down, decorative elements, etc. Chapter 3 talked about what type of material was used to make this Type IV armor--only linen, only leather, a combination, metal inserts or scales? And if it was only linen, was it many layers of linen sewn together or many layers of linen glued together or stuffed and quilted linen?

Chapter 4 talked about their reconstructive archaeology efforts to make both sewn and laminated (glued layers of) linen armor. There was enough detail that I felt like I could do the process myself if I wished to. Chapter 5 talked about how they tested the armor, and chapter 6 gave the results (including both charts of numbers and a summary of the data in the text). They mainly tested with ancient arrows, but they also tried other weapons (swords, mace, spear, etc.). They also compared the linen results to tests on the effectiveness of bronze armor. Chapter 7 talked about the practical usability of the armor--mobility, ease of construction and repair, effectiveness of the repair, ability to withstand rain and river crossings, if it got hot when worn in full sun, the weight compared to bronze armor, etc. Chapter 8 talked about who might have made the linen for the armor and the cost in labor or money to produce a linen corselet.

It was interesting to learn how effective and usable linen body armor turned out to be. I felt that the authors gave a fair/balanced analysis of linen body armor and of the possibilities about its manufacture and use. I'd recommend this book to those who think it sounds interesting.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Excerpt: Read an excerpt using Google Preview.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Disobeying Hitler by Randall Hansen

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Disobeying Hitler
by Randall Hansen

ISBN-13: 9780385664639
Hardback: 480 pages
Publisher: Doubleday Canada
Released: May 20, 2014

Source: Review copy from the publisher through Amazon Vine.

Book Description, Modified from Goodreads:
Anyone with even a passing interest in the Second World War knows about the plot to assassinate Hitler in 1944. But the story of the great wave of resistance that arose in the year that followed--with far-reaching consequences--has never been told before.

Drawing on newly opened archives, acclaimed historian Randall Hansen shows that many high-ranking Nazis, and average German citizens in far greater numbers than previously recognized, reacted defiantly to the Fuhrer's by then manifest insanity. Together they spared cities from being razed, and prevented the needless obliteration of industry and infrastructure. Disobeying Hitler presents new evidence on three direct violations of orders made personally by Adolf Hitler: The refusal by the commander of Paris to destroy the city; Albert Speer's refusal to implement a scorched earth policy in Germany; and the failure to defend Hamburg against invading British forces.

Disobeying Hitler shows how the brave resistance of soldiers and civilians, under constant threat of death, was crucial for the outcome of the war. Their bravery saved countless lives and helped lay the foundations for European economic recovery--and continued peace

My Review:
Disobeying Hitler covered the fate of civilians and German troops in German-occupied territory from July 20, 1944 to May 9, 1945. From the title and description, I was expecting a focus on "human interest" stories...individual's stories and what made them disobey. Instead, much of the book was a series of "this person did this action at this place and this time" overviews of various military battles and related actions. If you're familiar with the battles of the war, this listing of military actions might help tie the other events together in your mind. However, I'm not a WWII buff. I'd have found the book more interesting if the battle movements were even more briefly summarized as they usually added little to the "disobeying Hitler" aspects of the story.

The tone of the writing was scholarly and attempted to set the record straight--based on actual evidence--on some claims of heroic disobedience by German leaders. The author pointed out what they did and didn't do, and what others (civilians) contributed to the outcome.

The first 72 (of 332) pages covered a brief summary of WWII events that lead up to Valkyrie and a description of the events of the July 20, 1944 assassination and coup attempt against Hitler. After that, we're told stories--connected by battle reports--of various cities being saved. Hitler had commanded that the cities would be essentially left in rubble as the German army died in heroic last stands. Not everyone thought this was a good idea (especially the civilians living in these cities). They risked their lives to save the civilian populations and the city itself, and this often also involved the surrender of German troops. We're also told of cities that were destroyed. The stories were often described as an overview of the action rather than going in-depth into the details, personalities, and motives. Perhaps these details do not exist in many of the cases.

I thought that the more civilian-focused view of the defeat of Germany was interesting, but the viewpoint was more distant and action-focused than I expected. It was interesting, but not as interesting as I expected it to be.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Excerpt: Read an excerpt using Google Preview.

Monday, January 30, 2017

A History of Courtship by Tania ODonnell

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A History of Courtship
by Tania ODonnell

ISBN-13: 9781781593486
ebook: 176 pages
Publisher: Pen and Sword History
Released: Jan. 27, 2017

Source: ebook review copy from the publisher through NetGalley.

Book Description, Modified from Goodreads:
Tania O’Donnell takes the reader on a journey from medieval Courtly Love, through to the sexual license of the Restoration, and Victorian propriety. Learn about courting, writing romantic love letters and poems, appropriate gifts, proposing, and more. In the 14th century young men tried to impress the ladies with their footwear, donning shoes with pointed toes so long that they had to be secured with whalebone—presumably because size mattered! The author also recounts tales of classic romantic mistakes and scandals.

My Review:
A History of Courtship is a survey of courtship practices--mainly from the 1300s to the 1800s in England. The author described how couples met, beauty and clothing fads, acceptable gifts, improper behavior, the role of chaperons, love poems and letters, and areas of conflict after marriage. She also looked at the differences in practices between the rich and the poor. She described some scandals and other unusual stories to illustrate various behaviors. The material came from sources like diaries, guides on things like etiquette or letter writing, and preserved love poems and letters.

Keep in mind that this book isn't meant to be an exhaustive source on courtship, and the subtitle is a bit misleading. It's not about seduction techniques, and she didn't really cover 800 years. Most of the information was from the 1500s to late 1800s. Overall, I'd recommend this interesting and entertaining book.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

The PlantPure Kitchen by Kim Campbell

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The PlantPure Kitchen
by Kim Campbell

ISBN-13: 9781944648343
Paperback: 256 pages
Publisher: BenBella Books
Released: Jan. 24, 2017

Source: ebook review copy from the publisher through NetGalley.

Book Description, Modified from NetGalley:
The film PlantPure Nation has helped foster a growing community of whole food, plant-based eaters. Key to its success has been the PlantPure Director of Culinary Education Kim Campbell’s inspiring and delicious recipes like those she shared in her 2015 cookbook, The PlantPure Nation Cookbook. Now Campbell is back with even more inventive recipes bursting with flavor.

Campbell shares tons of new recipes that will turn any plant-based eater into a chef with ease. With compassion for the challenges of following a plant-pure diet, Campbell lends advice about the best natural sweeteners, the most useful kitchen tools for plant-based cooking, vegan-friendly substitutions for making recipes egg-free, dairy-free, meat-free, and even gluten-free, and whole a lot more.

From dips and spreads, like Crockpot Apple Butter, to classic dinners, like Welsh Rarebit, The PlantPure Kitchen’s recipes will inspire you to lead a more plant-pure life.

My Review:
The PlantPure Kitchen is a whole food, plant-based (vegan) cookbook containing 130 recipes. This would be a good cookbook for someone new to cooking vegan meals from scratch. The author provided cooking tips, suggested only a relatively small number of tools, and most of the recipes were pretty simple to do. While she used gluten-containing grains and tree nuts in some recipes, she suggested easy modifications for people with those concerns.

The author started by describing some commonly used foods in vegan cooking and how to use them. She also described plant-based substitutes so you can convert regular recipes. She gave shopping tips and tips on food storage and food prep. There were also a few, short educational articles at the start of each section.

Each recipe had a picture of the finished product, and they looked very tasty (which I can't always say about vegan foods). The recipes included some vegan versions of holiday or popular foods. There were 10 breakfast recipes, 7 bread and muffin recipes, 10 burger, sandwich, and wrap recipes, 15 dressing and sauce recipes, 14 salad recipes, 11 appetizer, dip, and spread recipes, 10 soup and stew recipes, 27 entrees, 11 sides, and 14 deserts. Overall, I'd recommend this cookbook to those interested in adding more whole-food, plant-based meals to their diet.

Update: I've tried several of these recipes now. They've all turned out to taste very good, and they weren't difficult to make. In fact, the "I won't give up meat" eater in our family tried each of the dishes because they looked so good and didn't look that different from his food. He agreed he'd eat those dishes when we had them.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Teaming with Fungi by Jeff Lowenfels

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Teaming with Fungi
by Jeff Lowenfels

ISBN-13: 9781604697292
Hardback: 172 pages
Publisher: Timber Press
Released: Jan. 11, 2017

Source: ebook review copy from the publisher through NetGalley.

Book Description, Modified from Goodreads:
Teaming with Fungi is an important guide to mycorrhizae and the role they play in agriculture, horticulture, and hydroponics. Almost every plant in a garden forms a relationship with fungi, and many plants would not exist without their fungal partners. By better understanding the relationship, gardeners can take advantage of the benefits of fungi, which include an increased uptake in nutrients, resistance to drought, earlier fruiting, and more. Learn how the fungi interact with plants, how to grow their own, and how best to employ them in the home garden.

My Review:
Teaming with Fungi is about using beneficial fungi in crop agriculture, gardening, nurseries, forests, lawns, and hydroponics. The author described the benefits to using mycorrhizae when growing many types of plants and what practices can support or disrupt their growth.

He named specific fungi known to work well with certain plants and described how to best apply them to your plants. He even described how to collect and grow your own if you don't want to buy them, though it looked like a lot of work to me. He also included a technical section on the biology of beneficial fungi and a detailed explanation about how they interact with plants.

Last year, I tried to use mycorrhizae in my organic gardening but felt like I hadn't applied them correctly to some perennial plants. Reading this book did enlighten me as to what to do to get the most out of beneficial fungi, and I'll feel more confident using them in the future.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Excerpt: Read an excerpt using Google Preview.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Eat Wheat by John Douillard

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Eat Wheat
by John Douillard

ISBN-13: 9781683500117
Hardback: 325 pages
Publisher: Morgan James Publishing
Released: Jan. 10, 2017

Source: ebook review copy from the publisher through NetGalley.

Book Description, Modified from NetGalley:
Has gluten been found guilty without a fair trial? Eat Wheat presents the science on the other side of the gluten-free aisle. For example, ancient wheat has been shown to have twice the gluten content of modern wheat yet decreased inflammation two-fold and lowered cholesterol and blood sugar. So how could the more glutinous grain actually be healthier?

Dr. Douillard has seen more than 100,000 patients in his natural health practice, helping to improve their digestive systems and begin to eat wheat again. He explains how a breakdown in digestion has damaged the intestinal wall and leaked undigested foods and environmental toxins into the body’s lymphatic system, causing “grain brain” symptoms and food allergies. Although eliminating wheat and dairy from your diet may help your symptoms, it’s a temporary solution.

The book addresses the root cause: the inability to digest well and break down harmful pollutants and toxins that can lead to more serious health concerns. Backed by more than 600 scientific studies, Eat Wheat is a revolutionary guidebook to regaining your digestive strength and safely bringing wheat and dairy back into your diet.

It will also reveal the benefits of wheat and dairy; help you navigate around food toxins in modern wheat and dairy; detail how to flush congested lymphatics linked to food intolerance symptoms; teach you to follow natural digestive circadian cycles; help bring your blood sugar back into balance, and teach you proven exercise and detox techniques to reboot strong digestion and achieve optimal health and vitality.

My Review:
I've heard about gluten being linked to increased intestinal permeability in many people. Yet whole grains (including gluten-containing grains) are a part of the healthy Mediterranean diet. So who's right?

Eat Wheat looked briefly at the scientific studies that indicate benefit or harm from gluten or dairy. And it's clearly not as simple as "gluten is bad." The author explained the "leaky gut" link that gluten-free advocates are talking about but then pointed to a deeper, root cause of food sensitivities and digestive troubles--in the lymphatic system.

He explained how the lymphatic system works, why it might not be working well, and what you can do to heal your lymphatic system and leaky gut. He included some Ayurvedic principles, like eating more seasonally, but cited scientific studies to back up many of his recommendations. He sometimes recommend Indian foods and herbs, but you can find many of these in a good health food store. I felt like a person could more easily (and more cheaply) follow his healing program than some of the "heal your leaky gut" programs I've read about.

I felt that the author had many convincing arguments, and I intend to read through the book again. My brother's girlfriend has repeatedly done "elimination diets" and removed foods (including removing gluten) to the point that she can hardly eat anything. This book should help her heal so that she can tolerate many of those foods again. I'd also recommend this book to anyone who wants to better understand leaky gut or the current gluten-free trend.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Excerpt: Read an excerpt using Google Preview.